Yeti Television’s Siân Price

Indie production company Yeti Television has been keen on expanding its presence in the factual arena, moving between culinary, competition and children’s entertainment into true crime and more. The Truth About My Murder, the company’s first foray into the true-crime genre, has been a hit, landing two seasons and opening the door to similar commissions. Siân Price, Yeti’s creative director, talks with TV Real about navigating new spaces and managing development with a small team, building industry relationships, implementing various funding models and more.

TV REAL: Tell me about Yeti Television’s recent commissions in the factual space and its move into true crime.
PRICE: Yeti’s recent commissions have been quite wide-ranging. We did a series called The Great Big Tiny Design Challenge for Channel 4, which was a kind of Bake Off for miniatures with a dose of interior design. That was our first foray into the competition space. Off the back of that, we’ve developed more in that space and made our second competition series for S4C. It’s a kids’ competition called Style Stars (Sêr Steilio). We’ve taken what we’ve learned from The Great Big Tiny Design Challenge and applied it to a similar show. We’ve done kids’ stuff before, so it’s all about a genre we’ve cracked and can now expand on.

We also had our first cookery commission, an ITV series called Prue Leith’s Cotswold Kitchen. But being Yeti, it’s not a straightforward cookery series. At its heart are cooking and delicious recipes, but it feels like a much meatier cookery show than you would have seen before, with craft and process woven in.

We’ve made various one-offs throughout the last 12 months, including two documentaries that take us into the historic home space. We made another kids’ documentary, which was about children who’d been bullied.

While we were doing all of that, we built upon our true-crime credentials. We delivered our second season of The Truth About My Murder, which fuses science and pathology. It’s been successful, and we’ve used that series as a calling card to go after more true-crime commissions. We are actively developing in that space.

TV REAL: Do funding models differ across genres within the factual space? And how would you compare budgets for recent true-crime, cooking and documentary titles from Yeti?
PRICE: There’s a really big difference in genres and broadcasters that we find across the different content that we make. Our arts and history single docs are a much higher tariff than the true-crime series or the cookery series. Up until recently, broadcasters would largely fully fund a single documentary. For the lower-cost series, we were asked to bring money to the table. What we’re finding now, particularly in the last 12 months, is that even for the single docs, it helps push those projects over the line if you can bring money to the table. The difficulty it puts on us as a company is that money is often back-end that we now have to put upfront into programs. That is a massive squeeze on us in terms of reinvestment in the company, sustaining the development team, training people and the rest of it.

Budgets are becoming quite polarized; budgets that were low anyway are getting lower. And then there are the streamer budgets, which are massive. There doesn’t seem to be an awful lot in the middle. We’ve got to adapt to that changing model and the changing market.

TV REAL: What would you consider Yeti’s USP? How do you keep this consistent across genres and, as an indie, manage development with the small team that you have?
PRICE: We weave really rich, factual content into everything that we make. It’s what we like to call “popular specialist factual.” You take something away from all of our programs instead of passively watching. We also like to shine a light on people, worlds and places that you don’t ordinarily get to see. Those two core principles make a Yeti idea.

There are genres that we don’t do, although I won’t say never. Never say never! These are shiny floor, classic blue lights, quizzes and drama. Anything else is on the table for us.

In terms of development, being such a small team, we only do things that are reputational, returnable, commercial or something that opens a door. Sometimes, we will go after something that we know might be a loss-leader because it’s an in with a particular broadcaster or commissioner that we hope will lead to more.

We’re really good at accessing lots of different brains in our development team. We invite people who aren’t in development into our brainstorms. We have relationships with local colleges and universities, and different types of people come in. They all feed into that development process. We also have a traffic light system with our development slate, meaning we categorize things according to where they are in terms of traction with commissioners. This makes everything clear. Finally, we work hard. We’re a very efficient team. A lot of us are working mums; we get things done.

Where we can be more efficient, we are. We’re starting to embrace AI in our development processes just to see where we can streamline and be quicker.

TV REAL: What’s the key to managing and building those commissioner relationships?
PRICE: We pride ourselves on our honesty, our integrity, our passion and our tenacity. Everything we make, whether it’s low-cost or high-end, has high production values. When making something for a commissioner, you’ve got to deliver it well to maintain that relationship. We spend a lot of time forging and maintaining talent relationships and actively seeking out talent. We know our ideas, have regular routines with commissioners and have good PR. We do put time and effort into making sure Yeti is a company people have heard about. When we find a commissioner that we work well with, we supercharge those relationships. Those are the ones that we actively put more time into because it feels like pushing an open door.

It’s not easy; there are a lot of production companies out there. We’re at a disadvantage in that we’re a regional company. We’re a female-led, small, socially and economically diverse company. Regardless, tenacity and passion are key. They shine through.

TV REAL: How do those relationships contribute to persuading channels that Yeti has the right expertise to deliver in a different genre than usual?
PRICE: If you’ve got a great idea, a broadcaster will find a way to make it with you. But at Yeti, we have quite a wide range of expertise in the sort of genres and types of programs that we’ve worked on. That gives us confidence in pitching ideas. We are confident when we pitch them that we know we can make them. We’d never pitch something that we didn’t have a clue how to make. We hire great freelance talent as well. Because we’re a tiny team, when we’re in production, we can’t make it all ourselves in-house. We also storytell exceptionally well at Yeti. And the basis of any great piece of television is storytelling.